Baking in a Guest Kitchen

Despite having the best laid plans, there are times when life decides to test you…Like when you have an order for cupcakes for a birthday party and you get a notice in the mail from the electric company letting you know there is a planned power outage in your neighborhood on the day you were planning to bake and decorate the party cupcakes. Yes, that really happened to me.

Luckily for me, I have a wonderful friend (actually I have many wonderful friends!), but one in particular who was gracious enough to let me invade her home and take over her kitchen for the day, and into the evening as it turns out, in order to complete my cupcake order.

When you bake in a new kitchen it is best to familiarize yourself with a different oven. Of course since I’m not a professional baker, I didn’t really think about checking things like oven temperatures, which any oven manual will tell you varies between ovens. So when my first batch of strawberry cupcakes burned on the bottom, I learned that lesson the hard way.  Also, it’s important to remember to take all your necessary tools. When you have to improvise, it doesn’t always come out the way you planned. It seemed as though everything from the baking, to the decorating took twice as long as it did in my own kitchen, which I didn’t anticipate and led to my friend making dinner for both our families. (Like I said I have great friends!)

I managed to get all the cupcakes baked, decorated and put into containers for the party the next day and went home to discover the electricity was never turned off and the planned power outage never effected our neighborhood. I know if I had started baking at home the electricity would have gone off and I’d have been left in a much worse predicament.

Ironically, the theme for the party was “Alice in Wonderland”, so after feeling like I fell down the rabbit hole, without any real direction, becoming a little “mad”, and having to think on my feet, everything in the end turned out okay and the cupcakes were a hit the next day.

*Cupcakes pictured are Strawberry cupcakes with Strawberry Cream Cheese filling and Strawberry buttercream frosting and Vanilla cupcakes with Lemon Curd filling and Lemon Mousse frosting

Cupcakes and Cocktails

My cupcake journey began with a Margarita Cupcake, complete with lime, salt and tequila in the cake and of course, more tequila in the frosting. Over the past few years I’ve seen, or been sent, a variety of cupcake recipes which have alcohol as part of the recipe either in the cake itself, the frosting, or sometimes in a filling.

One of the most popular cupcakes I make is the Irish Car Bomb. Named after the drink which is a Guinness stout beer with a Baileys Irish Cream and Jameson Whiskey shot in it, it is very popular around St. Patrick’s Day. The cupcake is a chocolate cake made with Guinness Stout beer, with a chocolate ganache filling that has Jameson Whiskey and Baileys Irish Buttercream frosting. I have made it many times and won 4th place in the 2014 OC Cupcake Classic with this cupcake.

IMG_5943Several cupcakes I’ve made have called for beer in the batter. Several beers I’ve used include Nitro Milk Stout from Left Hand Brewing and several chocolate stouts from various breweries. I’ve also used a cherry sour beer to infuse some dried cherries for a filling. I actually had some chocolate cupcakes that sunk in the middle, so I added the filling and topped it with a cherry almond frosting. Sometimes when you hit a snag, it inspires a win!

IMG_3851The Maple Bacon Beer Batter cupcake won second place for me at the Orange County Fair this year and it’s made with Delirium Tremens Belgian Ale. The batter is light and has a great flavor which is no doubt why the cupcakes are light and also have a great taste.

IMG_5949I have a girlfriend who is all about Fireball Whiskey. If’ it is sweet and has Fireball in it she has sent the recipe to me, or posted it herself. She inspired me to make a Fireball cupcake recently that had good reviews from my tasters. The recipe I used called for Fireball in the batter, brushing more Fireball on the cooled cupcakes, and adding Fireball to the brown sugar  butter cream frosting. When I first thought about making them I was trying to figure out how to change it up. I know cinnamon and apples are a good combo so I decided to add a filling. I grabbed some apple pie filling, added some apple pie moonshine and filled my fireball cupcakes. They were very good and had a bit of a kick, which is always a plus my book.

IMG_6043I know I will continue to look for new ways to incorporate alcohol and different ingredients into my cupcakes. In the past cupcakes were primarily a dessert found at kids parties, but they have really grown into a specialty dessert. It’s a perfect size,  not too filling, but can still provide a sweet finish to any meal. They can be as simple or decadent as you want, and by adding alcohol I think it just makes for a more “grown up” dessert.  Cupcakes…They aren’t just for kids anymore!

Orange County Fair Experience 2014/2015

The Orange County Fair is an annual event which dates back to 1889 when it was just a small five-day festival. Over the years it’s grown and added rodeos, a petting zoo, carnival rides, various contests showcasing visual and creative arts, culinary contests, and of course all the fried food you can imagine.

Last year I entered the OC Cupcake Classic, which was a special event for cupcakes only. It was done as a live judging event and I, along with my supporters, spent the afternoon at the fair trying fried food, playing carnival games, drinking beer and waiting for what seemed like forever for the results. Out of 1020 or so entries in about six categories, my Irish Car Bomb cupcake placed 4th in the “chocolate” category and my Cannoli cupcake placed 9th in the “vanilla” category. I’ll stop now and say had I really paid attention to the “vanilla” category thing I might have placed higher if I put a vanilla bean frosting on my cupcake rather than the chocolate frosting I usually make with that cupcake. Live and learn right? Anyway, I was pretty pleased with the outcome and surprised to have placed at all, so I was glad to come home with more than just my “participant” ribbon.

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This year I was dismayed to find out the OC Cupcake Classic was not being held. I was told by OC Fair organizers they try to change the special culinary contests every few years and they decided on different contests for this year. However, I was encouraged to enter the regular culinary arts contests for baking. So I decided to go for it! They had three categories in the cupcake division, fruit, chocolate and other. I took to social media to help me decide which cupcakes I should enter and the overall consensus was a Mango cupcake for “fruit”, the Thin Mint cupcake for “chocolate” and the Maple-Bacon Beer-Batter cupcake for “other”. I had several people as guinea pigs for the Mango cupcakes and made the Thin Mint cupcakes for birthdays and graduation parties earlier in the year with good reviews. Since I first made the Maple-Bacon Beer-Batter cupcake last year people loved it, dubbed it the “Breakfast Cupcake” and said I should definitely enter it in the fair for this year.

I made my entries and dropped them off for judging several days before the fair opened and since I only needed to submit four cupcakes, I sold the rest to friends and family. (Thanks again to all who purchased for always supporting me!)

I went to the opening day of the fair to see the results and was shocked to find the Maple-Bacon Beer-Batter cupcake placed 2nd out of 27 entries in the “other” category! While my other two entries did not place, I did get some good feedback and am already thinking of what cupcakes to enter for next year!

IMG_5586 Maple Bacon Beer Batter IMG_5726

Participating in the fair the past two years has been not only an exciting experience, but also rewarding. I began baking cupcakes for fun, making them for family desserts and friends parties. However, it has now grown to include making and selling them to people for parties and events. Overall, I think receiving recognition in a public competition has inspired me to learn more about baking and decorating cupcakes and more seriously consider turning a hobby I enjoy into something I can do after I retire from my current career.

So one day I decided to start a cupcake blog….

FotorCreated Well, like the caption says, one day I decided to start a cupcake blog. I have been making cupcakes for several years now. It started when a dear friend had a birthday and saw Margarita Cupcakes online and asked if I could make those. So I did, and my life has not been the same since. I have truly enjoyed discovering and trying new recipes and changing up ingredients or mixing and matching fillings and frosting to make some of my own creations.

Since this little journey began, I’ve entered several OC Fair competitions, made cupcakes for fundraising events, and even sold cupcakes to people for different occasions. But most importantly I’ve had fun doing it! I enjoy watching people when they try my cupcakes and getting feedback, both positive and not so positive. I’ve had my share of flops or duds, and at least one utter failure, but I think I’ve turned things around on occasion by improvising, and the people enjoying my cupcakes have been none the wiser.

I am planning on using this blog to share my triumphs, failures and ideas with others and also, if I can figure out how, to post links to recipes I’ve used for some of the cupcakes. I have gotten many ideas from Pintrest, the internet, and even Facebook posts people have shared with me. I will always make sure to try to give credit where credit is due for any recipes I post.

I need to thank a few people first…

To my friend Phil Nigash, thanks for your help in starting this blog. When I asked you for your opinion about it I knew you’d provide useful insight and encouragement. However, when you jumped right in with both feet, helping me get a domain name, find wordpress, etc. well that went above and beyond, and since I’ve known you, you’ve always been that way. So, thanks for all the support in this new venture.

To my kids Katie and Matt, thanks for your support and encouragement. When I asked your opinion about starting a blog you were both very supportive and thought it was a good idea, so we’ll see how this goes. Also, thanks to Matt for his help in setting up this first post. I know you’ll need to continue to provide tech support for me as I’m new to all of this.

And finally, thanks to my husband Don and all my family, friends, and co-workers for being my guinea pigs and willingly trying my recipes at Sunday dinners, parties, or just because I sent them over or dropped them by your house. Many of you have encouraged me to enter contests, or purchased cupcakes for occasions or just because I had extra to sell, and I appreciate all of you so much.

Wow, so that’s it my first blog post. Sorry I’m so long winded but you’ll find I’m not a woman of few words. (ha ha) Enjoy!